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With barely a whimper, as quietly as a mouse, a football club died today at the High Court in London. It might not matter that much to many people that Windsor & Eton Football Club should have slipped from consciousness today, but it matters to some – the couple of hundred or so people that supported them, those that played for them, were amongst the backroom staff and the volunteers that ran the club through well over a century of history, for example. There was and will continue to be a short mourning period for another non-league club that has fallen by the wayside but life, we can safely assume, will then continue as per normal. No lessons learnt, no-one held culpable and no change from the headlong rush towards insanity in which we find our game.
Founded as Windsor & Eton Temperance FC in 1892, this was not a club accumstomed to creating headlines. Members of the Athenian League until 1981, promotion into the Premier Division of the Isthmian League was rapid and, in the autumn of 1983, they held Harry Redknapp’s AFC Bournemouth in the Second Round proper of the FA Cup. The opposition for the replay was already known to be Manchester United in the Third Round and, after Bournemouth won the second match by two goals to nil at Dean Court, Windsor’s opposition went on to beat United in the Third Round, with Redknapp commenting after the match that Windsor had caused them more problems than Ron Atkinson’s team had.
The club managed nine seasons in the Premier Division of the Isthmian League before succumbing to successive relegations. Years of near-misses followed in the Second Division of the Isthmian League before the club was transferred into the Southern League in 2006. The club’s final full season in Division One South and West of the Southern League saw the club lift the championship by a single point from AFC Totton and at the time of their passing were in tenth place in the Southern League Premier Division. In recent years, their Stag Meadow home had also hosted matches for their local rivals Slough Town, another Berkshire club crippled by years of misfortune and mismanagement.
The details of how Windsor & Eton FC came to be in a situation so dire that they came to not even be contesting the winding up order presented against them by HMRC earlier this season are almost grinding in their predictability. The club is understood to have owed approximately £60,000 to HMRC out of a total debt of £137,000 (if these figures are roughly correct, it would hint at why the club wasn’t able to avoid liquidation by entering into a CVA – HMRC might well have had a blocking vote on any proposals that the club might have been looking for), a debt that has slowly built up over the last few years or so. Such mismanagement is endemic within non-league fotball, and this leads us to the question of what happens next for football in the area.
The future of Stag Meadow is likely to be secure. It is owned by the Crown, and it is anticipated that they will allow it to be used for the purposes of football. Perhaps the bigger question is that of where a new club will start next season, and under whose ownership. Chairman Peter Sampson seems to be on his way out and it seems likely that a new man will be charge for the formation of a new club. Its should go without saying for reason from this site that the future of Windsor & Eton FC must be based upon the fundamental principle that this situation must never be allowed to happen again.
The issue of the moral responsibility of a company to repay its debts and small businesses that cannot afford to be left in the lurch by one that can no longer trade is one thing, but the loss of a club to its community is something else altogether. If football is to mean anything more than an unsightly rush towards the madness that we continue to see, the likes of Windsor & Eton must not be forgotten. Paying off Windor & Eton’s tax bill would have taken less than one week’s worth of Andy Carroll’s newly-plumpened wage packet and paying off the club’s total debts would have taken less than a fortnight’s worth of it. This isn’t meant as a reflection upon Carroll himself, but on a more general state of malaise that needs to be addressed before more clubs like Windsor & Eton find themselves in the same position as the club that died today.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
A shame. I saw them lose their play-off semi-final against Didcot two years ago. Stag Meadow is tucked away in suburban Windsor, a lovely scrappy ground that’s carved out of the Great Park. Really friendly fans.
I believe they had upped their wage bill a bit to try and get promoted. And while things clearly got out of control, a £130k debt built up over a few years is not THAT unimaginable: consider it a shortfall of £50kpa, or a £2k loss per regular season game. Had they won a couple more FA Trophy games or got promoted and benefitted from larger Conf South away followings then that would be quickly repaid.
When clubs going bust over this amount of money it’s generally a case of over-ambition and naivety rather than malice or particularly bad management.
As much as it is sad to see any club go under, surely “over-ambition and naivety” is bad management??
I’m sure they’ll be back soon in some form, free of their debts.
I only went to see these play less than a month ago agaisnt Halesowen Town and now they’re gone?
Terrible news and I really feel for their fans. For an historic club to go under for what is peanuts compared to some of the transfer fees bring paid this week doesn’t seem right. I visited stag meadow with Enfield fc in the mid 90’s on the opening day of the season. Lovely ground and it’s good foot will hopefully be played there next season. New club for combined counties division one (step 6) next season??
It is a shame when a club from the lower level folds, however, they had debts which they ran up, which they failed to meet. Ok one of them was HMRC, but others were probably ‘the little guys’ who probably can’t afford for people not to honour their debts. That said, the more money that is not paid by clubs to HMRC the more that will have to be met by me,you and every other tax payer in this country. What really gets my goat is that out of the ashes we will get Windsor and Eton (2011) or something similar and there is nothing to stop them being just as financially irresponsible. It’s time that these clubs folded and the leagues didn’t accommodate the ‘new’ club re-entry. Something has to be done to make clubs operate within their financial means.
Although as a youngster I visited only because I supported their local rivals Maidenhead United, I always enjoyed the trip to Stag Meadow – my Great Aunt and Uncle lived on the council estate round the corner – a world away from the posher parts of town.
But as you mention, the best memory would have to be that FA Cup game against Bournemouth in 1983 – unforgettable.
Re – the above. Bad management indeed and ambition above that which was sustainable, but the fans didn’t do this and as football is “the People’s Game”, surely they shouldn’t be denied the right to set up a Windsor & Eton F.C. again?
Stag Meadow sits there as a reminder of good and bad times for me, derby games won and lost and a ground share that possibly when it ended led to the current situation. Our club’s supporters were a significant earner for WEFC, which they never replaced once we left.
Ifeel sorry for the supporters of windsor but if you havnt got the money why spend what you havnt got,its only like you can only afford on your mortgage of 100k but you bought a house with a mortgage of 175k,perhaps the people running the club should be punished ,not the people who spend good money every week following,good luck to everybody hope you get it sorted
I knew W&E FC were in financial difficulties and eventually folded. In my youth and early twenties I lived close to Stag Meadow in Princess Avenue, then located very close to the Stag and Hounds. This was at the time that Peter Osgood played in Spital Old Boys local club before moving on to Chelsea. It was certainly a priviledge for me to play along side him. As a team we played some occasional matchs at Stag Meadow in itself a priveledge being Royal Land and the Duke of Edinburgh as President (or was it Patron)?
I do realise this is is looking back and important to my memories but W&E are clearly looking to the future to re-establish the Club and from sunny(?) North Yorkshire my best wishes for the future.
Sad to see the demise of Windsor and Eton. I played for them for a short while in the mid 1950s, Harry Freeman (former Fulham full back) was our manager and Henry Kornas was captain,Henry was Polish and had starred for Slough Town previously we were in the Metropolitan League,I brought a pal called Peter Mayers to the club and he was a regular scorer. I lived in Willesden and I used to get £1-00 a game, which barely covered my journey, but I was very proud to play for the ‘Royals’.
This was before TV coverage of league football so clubs like W&E,Chesham, Maidenhead, got decent crowds,We played Maidenhead in Berks & Bucks senior cup match with nearly 4,000 crowd. a league game away at Newbury on Boxing day brought a similar crowd.When Amateur foot ball ended and money became silly, lovely clubs like the ones I have mentioned suffered,and took the place of pride.
Sorry, last lines should have read, Money became silly, and took the place of pride.